May is a lovely time to be in London as the days are getting longer and the options to be outside, with a greater chance of dry weather, are more plentiful.
I was inspired by Paul O’Pray, Head Concierge of London Bridge Hotel, who likes to visit Regent’s Park and there are a few good reasons to head there during May.
The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre 2014 season opens on 15 May with Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. It’s a 20th century classic with a story of denial, guilt and a confrontation that leads to a shameful family secret.
The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park is the only professional, outdoor theatre in Britain. It offers a range of events and performances from May through to September.
On the north side of Regent’s Park is London Zoo where there’s a Silent Cinema from 6 to 10 May. The special five nights starts with ’90s classic Jumanji and concludes with childhood-favourite, The Jungle Book.
I’ve always admired the old Lubetkin penguin pool at London Zoo so the new History Tours at the Zoo sound like a really good idea. From April to November, on the last Friday and Saturday of each month, the history tours will look at the beginning of the Zoological Gardens in 1826, how it helped to inspire Charles Darwin, plus the famous listed buildings. London Zoo has some incredible heritage – it’s actually where we get the word ‘zoo’ from as it was the first.
© ZSL – Lubetkin Penguin Pool
MUSEUMS AT NIGHT
15 to 17 May is when many museums and cultural venues stay open late for the annual Museums at Night festival. As you would expect, there’s lots going on across London but, again, I took inspiration from Paul O’Pray as he recommended the Old Operating Theatre close to London Bridge Hotel.
On 16 May the Old Operating Theatre is opening for “Night of The Bodysnatcher” so you can hear about the gruesome profession of the Resurrectionists – the men who supplied corpses to the dissecting rooms of London from the graves of the city.
Old Operating Theatre – Image © Sue Lowry
A much less frightful option would be to visit Apsley House on Friday 16 or Saturday 17 May (6-8pm) to explore the resplendent rooms after dark and hear the tales of the house’s fascinating history brought to life. This was the Duke of Wellington’s home and is also known as ‘Number One London’.
QUIRKY ENGLISH FUN
I mentioned the Tweed Run in the ‘Planning Ahead‘ section last month as it’s a fine example of English eccentricity. On 17 May look out for the genteel gentlemen cyclists, along with some fair ladies too, as they take to the streets on bicycles old and new. It’s all about looking the part and “overdressed” is not in their vocabulary!
There’s more English fun the week before on 11 May as it is the 39th Covent Garden May Fayre. You can expect a Grand Procession in the morning and Punch and Judy puppet performances throughout the afternoon.
Another English tradition is a pint at the pub and Pint of Science, on from 19 to 21 May, allows you to combine having a drink with learning something scientific. The talks are cheap (less than the price of a pint) and there are dozens of pubs to choose from as well as topics to select.
Close to the London Bridge Hotel, The Rose Theatre has a sponsored Readathon, on 31 May, of twelve plays by Shakespeare and Marlowe – many of which were performed at this 16th century theatre.
There’s an Art Deco Fair at Eltham Palace, in Greenwich, on 10-11 May, so you can surround yourself with Art Deco decadence and sample the splendour of the thrilling thirties with an abundance of vintage stalls to satisfy the most ardent shopper. If you miss this date there’s another on 13-14 September.
Kenwood House, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, has a Foodies Festival on Friday 30 May to Sunday 1 June (11am-7pm). It will be a celebration of fine food and drink in a beautiful outdoor setting, with plenty of cookery demonstrations, plus kids can learn to cook too in the Children’s Cookery Theatre. I’m looking forward to afternoon tea in the Vintage Tea Tent and taking part in one of the tea dances.
Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival has been running since 1993 and each year invites a different cultural figure to act as director of the event and pick the performers of their choosing. This year, DJ, recording artist and record label boss James Lavelle has been asked to direct the 2014 festival – promising 10 days of performances and creative collaborations from 13 to 22 June. Look out for hip hop legend Grandmaster Flash and Scratch Perverts who are playing a one off double-bill.
Another annual event starting in June is the City of London Festival on from 22 June to 17 July. The Square Mile celebrates music, dance, art, film, poetry, and family events across iconic venues and outdoor spaces, including Paternoster Square, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, where there will be a giant bowler hat. It’s an inflatable pop-up venue and will host theatre, comedy and circus events.
Also, the Quarter Bar & Lounge, at London Bridge Hotel, is taking part in London Wine Week which runs from 2 to 8 June. Look out for the wine tours.
Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.
Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as@AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.